Emigrate vs. Immigrate: What’s the Difference?

Considering how similarly immigrate and emigrate sound, it is understandable for people to wonder if they are alternate spellings of the same word.

Emigrate’s Definition

Firstly, emigrate does not mean the same thing as immigrate. Emigrate has a specific definition: to depart one place – for example, a nation or state – to move somewhere else. Let’s look at an illustration involving the actor Mila Kunis. She was born in Ukraine before moving to the United States as a child:

Example: Mila Kunis emigrated from Ukraine to the US when she was seven years old.

Immigrate’s Definition

Immigrate means to move into a nation and or region that you are not native to. As an example, let’s look at a sentence about actor Selma Hayek who was born in Mexico:

Example: Selma Hayek immigrated to the US in 1991.

A Tip for Differentiating Immigrate and Emigrate

Here is a quick trick to tell these words apart. Think of the i in immigration as standing for in. Then you can associate immigrate with moving into a region.

Conversely, think of the e in emigrate as standing for exit. You can then quickly associate emigrate with exiting your land of origin.

Graphic explaining emigrate vs. immigrate:  Emigrate (Exit), Immigrate (In)

Additional Examples

“Basically, brain drain in Iran takes place for three reasons: economic, social, or political. At present, all these parameters go hand in hand in Iran. They have caused dissatisfaction among most Iranians so that according to research, 30% of the Iranian population tends to emigrate abroad.” – Eurasia Review

“Ida Nudel, who personified the Cold War struggle of Jews to immigrate from the Soviet Union to Israel, died on Tuesday in Israel, where she had lived since 1987.” – The New York Times

Related: You can see our other articles on similar words here:

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